Ancient stone carvings showing yoga poses have been found on archaeological digs dating 5,000 years. Scholars and researchers believed yoga may have come from Shamanism or Hinduism because of close similarities in the practice, according to the Secrets of Yoga and the American Yoga Association. It wasn’t until the 19th century that yoga found its way into American culture but it became more widely practiced in the 20th century. But no matter where or when yoga has been practiced, the central goal has always been of health and well-being.
Yoga is an athletic form that encourages energy flow and circulation to multiple parts of the body, according to the Secrets of Yoga. But yoga is more than just exercise; it is a way to bring your mind to a higher level of consciousness. It is a spiritual path that joins mind and body together through exercise, meditation and breathing, according to the American Yoga Association. The poses increase health and efficiency while the body is treated with great care and respect. The breathing that is taught during yoga is the source of life for the body and essential for the mind.
There are a variety of yoga postures from different schools of practice but the most beneficial poses are basic and can be done by anyone. They represent the core of yoga and are a steppingstone to more advanced poses. Hatha yoga is the most well known, involving physical movements and breathing techniques, according to the American Yoga Association. Warm-up exercises and stretching are equally as beneficial since they help condition the body for yoga postures. The five basic poses, consisting of both standing and sitting, include standing forward bend, neck rolls, seated spinal twist, warrior one and the cobra.
The standing forward bend begins with your knees straight. From your hips, bend forward, exhaling, letting your head hang forward and touching your fingers to the floor. Hold this pose for 30 to 60 seconds and as you return to the standing position, inhale. To execute the neck roll, exhale and touch your chin to your chest. Hold this pose for 15 to 30 seconds and inhale when returning your head to center. Repeat the neck roll for your left and right side. Start the seated spinal twist sitting on the floor sideways. Keep your knees together with your ankles directly below. Inhale, and as you exhale, twist to the right and hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat for the left side. Begin warrior one standing squarely and keeping your feet hip-width apart. Step forward in a high-lunge position, pivoting your back foot 45 degrees while your bent knee is directly over your ankle. Inhale and raise your arms over your head, palms facing one another. Drop your shoulders, press your chest forward and hold for four to eight breaths. The cobra pose starts by lying on the floor, stomach side down. Place your hands on the floor under your shoulders, keeping your elbows close to your sides. As you straighten your arms and lift your chest off the floor, inhale and press your lower body into the floor. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds breathing slowly. As you release the pose and lie flat, exhale.
The cobra pose strengthens the upper body and can help to alleviate back pain, depression and reverse a slouch, according to “Yoga Journal.” Benefits of the standing forward bend include calming the brain, relieving stress and depression, and improving digestion. This pose helps strengthen the thighs and knees while stretching the hamstrings, calves and hips. The standing forward bend may be therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure and sinusitis. The warrior one pose stretches the chest, lungs, shoulders, neck, belly and groin while strengthening the shoulders, arms, back, thighs, calves and ankles. Benefits of the seated spinal twist include relieving lower back pain, neck pain and stress. It may help improve digestion and it stretches the spine, shoulders and hips.